Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury expects business travel to bounce back after last year’s downturn, despite the rise of video apps such as Zoom.
Faury said if executives no longer met customers in person, but their competitors did, they would be at a huge disadvantage. “Refrain from business trips? That does not work,” he said.
It comes as data from corporate travel management company TravelPerk suggests business seats are now selling at 47 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in the US.
Talking with NZZ, Faury said, “One thing is clear to me: people want to fly again. Hardly more, but probably also no less than before the pandemic. And above all, they want to fly better.
“The adaptation to the home office had worked much better than expected. And digital technologies were proving so efficient that they wondered why their employees should still travel in the first place.
“At some point, they have to meet their customers and suppliers in person again. At some point, they have to be there to develop products or build new factories.”
The worldwide business travel market lost US$810.7 billion during 2020, while Airbus also suffered significant hardship itself, losing US$1.37 billion by the end of 2020. In the first quarter of 2021, the planemaker recorded a net cash position at €5.6 billion, compared to 2019 first quarter which was €7.5 billion.
Allison Taylor, American Airlines’ chief customer officer, said that 47 of their 50 largest corporate accounts plan to resume travelling again this year.
“They’re getting their office opened, feeling comfortable with that as the first steps, and then travel comes after that,” she said.
Contrarily, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky believes business travel will never be the same, as the world acclimatises to the online sphere for work.
“I think there are three big trends we will see in the permanent change of travel. In a world of more flexibility, we are never ever going back to the world of 2019,” he said.
“It means business travel as we know it has changed forever. People are not going to get on a plane for single meetings as much as they used to. The bar is now higher.”